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Transport leaders call for greater devolution of transport powers

Transport and city leaders from London, Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have set out how transport funding reforms could transform the prospects of the UK economy.

London’s transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy, Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, Geoff Inskip, chief executive of West Midlands transport co-ordinator Centro, and key figures from Leeds and Sheffield, have thrown their support behind a new independent report which calls for reforms that would ensure a shift in power from Whitehall, enabling the creation of jobs across the UK and economic growth for the whole country.

The report, which was commissioned by Transport for London and Transport for Greater Manchester, has been developed and delivered by economic consultants Volterra.

It states that the current approach to the evaluation and funding of transport projects is likely to lead to "damaging underinvestment" unless it is tackled and that pay back in terms of economic growth and jobs would be optimised if the approach were changed.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Greater financial freedoms for our cities are absolutely central to their ability to better plan and finance the infrastructure they need to flourish. Transport is no exception to this argument. It is a vital key to unlock the door to wider growth in our economy, helping to spur jobs, new homes and regeneration. Working in partnership with other major cities I have been making the case for Whitehall to give us a greater say over our own futures and in turn boost the prosperity of UK plc.”

Bernstein said: “As this report makes clear, greater devolution of transport powers is vital so that cities can better develop, fund and deliver transport improvements and fulfil their full economic potential.

“At present, the Government has a centralised system of funding with little integration at the city level. Just 5% of taxes raised in Britain are controlled by UK cities, compared to 30% in Germany and 37.5% in the USA. The report states this should change.

“Changing the rules and providing cities with more economic freedom would allow new projects to get off the ground and deliver benefits far more quickly than is currently the case.

“The pipeline of infrastructure projects that could be created would then fill the order books of companies up and down the country providing more certainty over transport investment and more firms investing more in jobs, skills, apprentices and innovation for the long-run, something which existing short-term planning horizons work against.”

The report shows that the current system of funding needs reform if the UK is to avoid being left behind in the global race for creating jobs and growth. It argues that transport investment in cities is pivotal to the country's success and that we need a fresh approach to the framework for deciding what transport infrastructure gets funded, where and when.

Hendy said: “The current system of transport evaluation was developed in an era of under-investment, where governments managed the decline of cities. We are now in a very different world, where cities are the drivers of the country’s future growth.

“We need a new system that enables cities to work together to realise their full economic potential. For that we need more control over the tax revenue we raise and changes in the way in which the real financial return of transport investment is evaluated.

“If we are given the freedom to do so we will create new jobs and growth that will benefit the whole country."

Inskip added: “The report sets out the need for a new direction for transport, so that it integrates with city agendas for global competitiveness and provides the right levers to deliver a truly integrated transport network.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the report’s conclusions that devolved powers and funding from Whitehall will allow cities to strengthen their transport infrastructure and fulfil their true economic potential.”

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